After injuring his back, former construction worker and Altoona native Mark Bates decided to get into the restaurant business.
Six years ago, he and a partner took over Fat Daddy's Barbecue Shak and Six Pak, which at the time was at Logan Boulevard and Sixth Avenue.
Today, the location has changed, the partnership dissolved and Bates touches just about every aspect of the business, including smoking the restaurant's specialty: Barbecue.
Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec
Fat Daddy’s owner Mark Bates poses in the dining room.
"When it's busy, I'll jump in there," Bates, 54, said. "I like cooking the ribs and the chicken, put it that way."
While Fat Daddy's - now located at 200 Pleasant Valley Blvd. - serves up ribs, chicken, pulled pork and brisket smoked on an indoor smoker, it also offers homemade rigatoni and meatballs, subs, sandwiches, pizza, salads and wings.
Classic barbecue sides such as corn bread, coleslaw and Fat Daddy's Original Baked Beans can round out a meal, while appetizers such as fresh-cut fries, sweet potato fries, buffalo chips or mac and cheese bites can start it.
Behind the Plates
Fat Daddy's Barbecue Shak and Six Pak
Address: 200 Pleasant Valley Blvd.
Phone number: 949-2727; fax orders, 949-2366
Web site: https://sites.google.com/site/ fatdaddysbbqshak/home
Hours: Noon to 9 p.m. Sunday, 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday. Closed Monday. Delivery for business orders 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., and 4:30 to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Friday. All day Saturday and Sunday.
Price range: $.75 for a side of corn bread to $32.99 for a barbecue family pack containing a full rack of ribs, whole chicken, a pint of pulled pork, two sides and four corn bread.
Atmosphere: Casual. Has a full bar and dining space for large parties.
Specialties: Barbecue ribs, chicken, pulled pork, brisket
Fat Daddy's also serves homemade soups, such as chicken noodle, vegetable beef and ham and bean.
But barbecue is at its heart.
"I like the barbecue part of it. That's what I wanted to get into," Bates said.
The smoker can handle 65 rib racks at a time, but the 1976
graduate of Bishop Guilfoyle Catholic High School keeps the output in line with what they sell, so that what is served up is always fresh.
They do about 60 to 70-plus racks of ribs weekly, he said.
"Oh yeah, you got to keep it fresh. Yes," Bates said. "I actually buy a lot of my meat from [Kepner's] Grandview [Meats] down the street here. They have really good meat. It's fresh. Comes from there to here. It's about a mile away.
"And I go see him about three times a week, if not more. Yeah, it's local. We work together."
The children's menu has classic offerings such as grilled cheese and chicken fingers, but families can also order up Fat Daddy's family specials.
The Smokehouse special comes with a half rack of ribs, half a chicken, a side and corn bread. In addition to what the Smokehouse offers, the Sampler special has a half pint of pulled pork and more corn bread.
While the "Full House" special doesn't come with a complimentary house cleaning from Danny Tanner, it does add another side and more corn bread to the Sampler's offering.
The Family Pack special comes with a full rack of ribs, a whole chicken, a pint of pulled pork, two sides and corn bread.
Another business partnership isn't in the future, Bates said, even though
the full responsibility of running the business is tough.
"It's a lot of work, but with two people, at least you could be off here and there, but when there's one person, it's like, yeah, I pretty much live here," he said.
And no wonder because it's not just a restaurant. Fat Daddy's has a full bar inside and offers a catering service, as well.
Bates said he enjoys meeting people through his business.
"Got a lot of regulars that come in," he paused, "hang out at Idiot's Lounge," he finished, using the name he coined for the restaurant's bar.
"I use that word a lot... 'You idiot!' Jokingly, you know," he said, laughing.
On a recent Friday afternoon, customer Larry Robbins of Altoona said he enjoys the Pittsburgh sandwich, and he had just eaten a cheeseburger with the works. He often orders the barbecue chicken, he said.
"Quality of the food, cleanliness," he said as for what he likes about the restaurant.
Jennifer Hale of Tipton is a regular at the restaurant.
"We like the wings, the cheesesteaks, the pizza ... strombolis, basically anything. I mean, we bring our kids here. It's a friendly, fun, atmosphere. The baseball team comes here regularly after games, and it's just a nice place to come."
It's not just the customers who are happy at Fat Daddy's either.
"I love it," waitress Kendra Luckett, 19, of Altoona said. "He's [Bates] a really good boss. And then the other waitresses that I work with, we all get along really well. We're all like a little family."
Mirror Staff Writer Amanda Gabeletto is at 949-7030.